Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring. Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.
Right after I started this part of the coursework, I was scheduled to go to the jungles and I was thrilled to get an opportunity to explore this exercise there. Animals are my most favorite species as compared to humans that are on the opposite spectrum on my list, Amongst animals, the Tiger, in my opinion, is the most magnificent species on this planet. Anybody who has had the honour of experiencing a Tiger in the wild will vouch for that. An animal who literally heals you, and in my extensive work with Tigers I have experienced it first hand. Having worked with animals at close quarters for now almost two decades, I like to believe that I have a connection with them, which quite often has resulted in a telepathic conversation from my side which I have reasons to believe has reached their ears and the animal in question seems to have listened to me and just did what I had hoped they would. Having many such experiences in the past, I hoped to have a similar experience for the sake of this exercise.
When one enters a jungle there is no way one can predict who you will meet, what you will see, under what circumstances and shooting conditions, leave alone any guarantee of even seeing a Tiger. So the foundation of this exercise was based totally on the unexpected, so being open to the unexpected came naturally. In this trip, I had a total of ten safaris, and this sequence happened on my fourth safari, in the world-famous Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, apparently one the best places in the world to see a Tiger, due to the ruins of a famous 15th-century fort that adorns this National Park.
Ranthambhore National Park is a very popular park and I have been visiting it for almost twenty years. I usually have this habit of talking to the animal in front of me under my breath always. And this day was no exception. The lake, known as ‘Padam Talao,’ presents an opportunity for an iconic classic image of this place, with the ancient fort and renowned temple as the backdrop if you are lucky enough to get a Tiger in front of it. There are many factors that can come into play for a good image here – like the time of the day, lighting conditions, where you are standing, what lens do you have, etc. I have seen a tiger maybe a couple of times earlier in my twenty years but unfortunately, none of the above conditions were in perfect sync to allow me to get that perfect iconic shot here. Another challenge with this park is that it is small and the footfall of people coming here is huge, so getting unique shots amongst the hundreds of people present in every safari is difficult.
Experience on the day
On the chilly winter morning of 7th November 2020, even before the first ray of the sun had cracked, we entered the park. Within minutes, the alarm calls of the deer made us stop in our tracks, indicative of the presence of a Tiger nearby. With no guarantee that the Tiger would even be seen or come out in the open, we stopped near this beautiful picturesque lake within the park, standing in absolute silence as other safari jeeps gathered. It was still not bright and due to the winter fog, one could not really see very far with the naked eye. By this time, everyone entering the park had stopped and waited for the tiger to appear. As we stood waiting, I scouted the area with my 800mm lens, in the distance across the lake where the alarm calls had come from. Suddenly I spotted the Tiger far in the distance through my lens and began shooting as she started to walk alongside the lake. At this point, nobody else could see what I was shooting as the Tiger was still very far, and as you can see in the images, the light very low. As always, I was excited to see a Tiger and began talking to her under my breath. As she walked, I muttered under my breath urging her to come to drink some water as that would create a lovely frame. As you can see in the contact sheets, she kept walking on the lake bank and then finally turned to drink some water, just before looking directly into my eyes (lens), as you can see in image no AE3I0096, in the contact sheets.
As she finished drinking water, she chose a path that had a dry broken tree and she walked towards it. This to me suddenly presented a frame that was not only unique but I was sure none of the people there would manage a shot through the dense broken tree. The tree was a beautiful backdrop as the tiger walked towards it. I quickly turned my lens to the manual setting as it would just not focus on the tiger on the automatic setting. And for me, this is a frame that I wanted to create with the Tiger looking at me. She was far and she refused to look at me even once. As I continued to beg and plead under my breath, as she was about to cross that tree, she looked straight into my eyes and made eye contact. The next few seconds she had crossed that tree. That was my select shot of the day!!!
Rest of the shots in this sequence
Reasons behind choosing my select shot
Nobody had anticipated that the Tiger would choose this tree to cross and because it was such a unique frame, I really wanted one image where she looked at me as she walked through it. There were a couple of frames like Fig 7 & 8 where she was in complete clarity amongst the chaos of the tree but then she didn’t look at me. And the select shot was just before she exited that area and she looked straight at me as if she heard me. Post this, she walked in front of the lake and I even got the classic iconic frame of Ranthambhore as well, as can be seen in the featured image, but my heart is with this sequence and the image where she looks at me from in between all the clutter – my first thought after was that amongst all the chaos of life, I am glad I have you as my clarity! My love for Tigers!!
I was quite pleased with the fact that amongst this sequence, which was tough to shoot because of the numerous branches that covered the frame, making it quite difficult to focus on a moving tiger, I managed to manually focus despite all the excitement that one experiences having a tiger in front of them, except for Fig 10 where I lost her for one shot. Even though after this walk of hers, I got the iconic shot with the backdrop of the fort, but so did the other hundred odd people around me. This shot was chosen as my select shot as no one else got it because they didn’t firstly believe that it was worth taking this – to have the creative eye to recognise and to make most of a given situation, reacting to the unexpected immediately as timing is of utmost importance in a situation like this is not everyone’s cup of tea – I have seen people don’t think that much or that quickly, and secondly, not everyone is as comfortable with manual focus and tracking a tiger which is quite at a distance, and amongst all the clutter and chaos of the branches that the tree posed, it was challenging to capture this shot. Thanks to my big bazooka, the 800mm, I saw the tiger clearly and was able to better focus on her.
Her sudden change of path to walk through this tree was quite unexpected, and happened suddenly. Am glad I was able to make this shot of hers. It frames this beauty so perfectly. For whoever is interested in seeing the shots before this sequence, here are the contact sheets.